The Face and the Mask
BY ROBERT BARR
THE HON. WILLIAM E. QUINBY
(United States Minister to the Netherlands)
HAS HELPED SO MANY UNKNOWN LITERARY ASPIRANTS THAT HE CAN HARDLY HAVE HOPED TO ESCAPE THE DEDICATION TO HIM OF A BOOK BY AT LEAST ONE OF THEM
CHAP. I. THE WOMAN OF STONE II. THE CHEMISTRY OF ANARCHY III. THE FEAR OF IT IV. THE METAMORPHOSES OF JOHNSON V. THE RECLAMATION OF JOE HOLLENDS VI. THE TYPE-WRITTEN LETTER VII. THE DOOM OF LONDON VIII. THE PREDICAMENT OF DE PLONVILLE IX. A NEW EXPLOSIVE X. THE GREAT PEGRAM MYSTERY XI. DEATH COMETH SOON OR LATE XII. HIGH STAKES XIII. "WHERE IGNORANCE IS BLISS" XIV. THE DEPARTURE OF CUB MCLEAN XV. OLD NUMBER EIGHTY-SIX XVI. PLAYING WITH MARKED CARDS XVII. THE BRUISER'S COURTSHIP XVIII. THE RAID ON MELLISH XIX. STRIKING BACK XX. CRANDALL'S CHOICE XXI. THE FAILURE OF BRADLEY XXII. RINGAMY'S CONVERT XXIII. A SLIPPERY CUSTOMER XXIV. THE SIXTH BENCH
The Personal Conductor: "It is a statue of no importance whatever."
The Personally Conducted: "Yes, but what does it mean?"
The Personal Conductor: "I don't suppose it means anything in particular. It is not by any well-known artist and the guidebooks say nothing about it."
The Personally Conducted: "Perhaps the sculptor intended to typify life; the tragic face representing one side of existence and the comic mask another."
The Personal Conductor: "Very likely. This way to the Louvre, if you please."
THE WOMAN OF STONE.
Lurine, was pretty, petite, and eighteen. She had a nice situation at the Pharmacie de Siam, in the Rue St. Honore. She had no one dependent upon her, and all the money she earned was her own. Her dress was of cheap material perhaps, but it was cut and fitted with that daintiness of perfection which seems to be the natural gift of the Parisienne, so that one never thought of the cheapness, but admired only the effect, which was charming. She was book-keeper and general assistant at the Pharmacie, and had a little room of her own across the Seine, in the Rue de Lille. She crossed the river twice every day—once in the morning when the sun was shining, and again at night when the radiant lights along the river's bank glittered like jewels in a long necklace. She had her little walk through the Gardens of the Tuileries every morning after crossing the Pont Royal, but she did not return through the gardens in the evening, for a park in the morning is a different thing to a park at night. On her return she always walked along the Rue de Tuileries until she came to the bridge. Her morning ramble through the gardens was a daily delight to her, for the Rue de Lille is narrow, and not particularly bright, so it was pleasant to walk beneath the green trees, to feel the crisp gravel under her feet, and to see the gleaming white statues in the sunlight, with the sparkle on the round fountain pond, by the side of which she sometimes sat. Her favorite statue was one of a woman that stood on a pedestal near the Rue de Rivoli. The arm was thrown over her head, and there was a smile on the marble face which was inscrutable. It fascinated the girl as she looked up to it, and seemed to be the morning greeting to her busy day's work in the city. If no one was in sight, which was often the case at eight o'clock in the morning, the girl kissed the tips of her fingers, and tossed the salute airily up to the statue, and the woman of stone always smiled back at her the strange mystical smile which seemed to indicate that it knew much more of this world and its ways than did the little Parisienne who daily gazed up at her.
Lurine was happy, as a matter of course, for was not Paris always beautiful? Did not the sun shine brightly? And was not the air always clear? What more, then, could a young girl wish? There was one thing which was perhaps lacking, but that at last was supplied; and then there was not a happier girl in all Paris than Lurine. She almost cried it aloud to her favorite statue the next morning, for it seemed to her that the smile had broadened since she had passed it the morning before, and she felt as if the woman of stone had guessed the secret of the woman of flesh.
Lurine had noticed him for several days hovering about the Pharmacie, and looking in at her now and then; she saw it all, but pretended not to see. He was a handsome young fellow with curly hair, and hands long, slender, and white as if he were not accustomed to doing hard, manual labor. One night he followed her as far as the bridge, but she walked rapidly on, and he did not overtake her. He never entered the Pharmacie, but lingered about as if waiting for a chance to speak with her. Lurine had no one to confide in but the woman of stone, and it seemed by her smile that she understood already, and there was no need to tell her, that the inevitable young man had come. The next night he followed her quite across the bridge, and this time Lurine did not walk so quickly. Girls in her position are not supposed to have normal introductions to their lovers, and are generally dependent upon a haphazard acquaintance, although that Lurine did not know. The young man spoke to her on the bridge, raising his hat from his black head as he did so.
"Good evening!" was all he said to her.
She glanced sideways shyly at him, but did not answer, and the young man walked on beside her.
"You come this way every night," he said. "I have been watching you. Are you offended?"
"No," she answered, almost in a whisper.
"Then may I walk with you to your home?" he asked.
"You may walk with me as far as the corner of the Rue de Lille," she replied.
"Thank you!" said the young fellow, and together they walked the short distance, and there he bade her good night, after asking permission to meet her at the corner of the Rue St. Honore, and walk home with her, the next night.
"You must not come to the shop," she said.
"I understand," he replied, nodding his head in assent to her wishes. He told her his name was Jean Duret, and by-and-by she called him Jean, and he called her Lurine. He never haunted the Pharmacie now, but waited for her at the corner, and one Sunday he took her for a little excursion on the river, which she enjoyed exceedingly. Thus time went on, and Lurine was very happy. The statue smiled its enigmatical smile, though, when the sky was overcast, there seemed to her a subtle warning in the smile. Perhaps it was because they had quarrelled the night before. Jean had seemed to her harsh and unforgiving. He had asked her if she could not bring him some things from the Pharmacie, and gave her a list of three chemicals, the names of which he had written on a paper.
"You can easily get them," he had said; "they are in every Pharmacie, and will never be missed."
"But," said the girl in horror, "that would be stealing."
The young man laughed.
"How much do they pay you there?" he asked. And when she told him, he laughed again and said,
"Why, bless you, if I got so little as that I would take something from the shelves every day and sell it."
The girl looked at him in amazement, and he, angry at her, turned upon his heel and left her. She leaned her arms upon the parapet of the bridge, and looked down into the dark water. The river always fascinated her at night, and she often paused to look at it when crossing the bridge, shuddering as she did so. She cried a little as she thought of his abrupt departure, and wondered if she had been too harsh with him. After all, it was not very much he had asked her to do, and they did pay her so little at the Pharmacie. And then perhaps her lover was poor, and needed the articles he had asked her to get. Perhaps he was ill, and had said nothing. There was a touch on her shoulder. She looked round. Jean was standing beside her, but the frown had not yet disappeared from his brow.
"Give me that paper," he said, abruptly.
She unclosed her hand, and he picked the paper from it, and was turning away.
"Stop!" she said, "I will get you what you want, but I will myself put the money in the till for what they cost."
He stood there, looking at her for a moment, and then said—"Lurine, I think you are a little fool. They owe you ever so much more than that. However, I must have the things," and he gave her back the paper with the caution—"Be sure you let no one see that, and be very certain that you get the right things." He walked with her as far as the corner of the Rue de Lille. "You are not angry with me?" he asked her before they parted.
"I would do anything for you," she whispered, and then he kissed her good night.
She got the chemicals when the proprietor was out, and tied them up neatly, as was her habit, afterwards concealing them in the little basket in which she carried her lunch. The proprietor was a sharp-eyed old lynx, who looked well after his shop and his pretty little assistant.
"Who has been getting so much chlorate of potash?" he asked, taking down the jar, and looking sharply at her.
The girl trembled.
"It is all right," she said. "Here is the money in the till."
"Of course," he said. "I did not expect you to give it away for nothing. Who bought it?"
"An old man," replied the girl, trembling still, but the proprietor did not notice that—he was counting the money, and found it right.
"I was wondering what he wanted with so much of it. If he comes in again look sharply at him, and be able to describe him to me. It seems suspicious." Why it seemed suspicious Lurine did not know, but she passed an anxious time until she took the basket in her hand and went to meet her lover at the corner of the Rue des Pyramides. His first question was—
"Have you brought me the things?"
"Yes," she answered. "Will you take them here, now?"
"Not here, not here," he replied hurriedly, and then asked anxiously, "Did anyone see you take them?"
"No, but the proprietor knows of the large package, for he counted the money."
"What money?" asked Jean.
"Why, the money for the things. You didn't think I was going to steal them, did you?"
The young man laughed, and drew her into a quiet corner of the Gardens of the Tuileries.
"I will not have time to go with you to the Rue de Lille to-night," he said.
"But you will come as usual to-morrow night?" she asked, anxiously.
"Certainly, certainly." he replied, as he rapidly concealed the packages in his pockets.
The next night the girl waited patiently for her lover at the corner where they were in the habit of meeting, but he did not come. She stood under the glaring light of a lamp-post so that he would recognize her at once. Many people accosted her as she stood there, but she answered none, looking straight before her with clear honest eyes, and they passed on after a moment's hesitation. At last she saw a man running rapidly down the street, and as he passed a brilliantly-lighted window she recognized Jean. He came quickly towards her.
"Here I am," she cried, running forward. She caught him by the arm, saying, "Oh, Jean, what is the matter?"
He shook her rudely, and shouted at her—"Let me go, you fool!" But she clung to him, until he raised his fist and struck her squarely in the face. Lurine staggered against the wall, and Jean ran on. A stalwart man who had spoken to Lurine a few moments before, and, not understanding her silence, stood in a doorway near watching her, sprang out when he saw the assault, and thrust his stick between the feet of the flying man, flinging him face forward on the pavement. The next instant he placed his foot upon Jean's neck holding him down as if he were a snake.
"You villain!" he cried. "Strike a woman, would you?"
Jean lay there as if stunned, and two gens d'armes came pantingly upon the scene.
"This scoundrel," said the man, "has just assaulted a woman. I saw him."
"He has done more than that," said one of the officers, grimly, as if, after all, the striking of a woman was but a trivial affair.
They secured the young man, and dragged him with them. The girl came up to them and said, falteringly—
"It is all a mistake, it was an accident. He didn't mean to do it."
"Oh, he didn't, and pray how do you know?" asked one of the officers.
"You little devil," said Jean to the girl, through his clinched teeth, "it's all your fault."
The officers hurried him off.
"I think," said one, "that we should have arrested the girl; you heard what she said."
"Yes," said the other, "but we have enough on our hands now, if the crowd find out who he is."
Lurine thought of following them, but she was so stunned by the words that her lover had said to her, rather than by the blow he had given her that she turned her steps sadly towards the Pont Royal and went to her room.
The next morning she did not go through the gardens, as usual, to her work, and when she entered the Pharmacie de Siam, the proprietor cried out, "Here she is, the vixen! Who would have thought it of her? You wretch, you stole my drugs to give to that villain!"
"I did not," said Lurine, stoutly. "I put the money in the till for them."
"Hear her! She confesses!" said the proprietor.
The two concealed officers stepped forward and arrested her where she stood as the accomplice of Jean Duret, who, the night before, had flung a bomb in the crowded Avenue de l'Opera.
Even the prejudiced French judges soon saw that the girl was innocent of all evil intent, and was but the victim of the scoundrel who passed by the name of Jean Duret. He was sentenced for life; she was set free. He had tried to place the blame on her, like the craven he was, to shield another woman. This was what cut Lurine to the heart. She might have tried to find an excuse for his crime, but she realized that he had never cared for her, and had but used her as his tool to get possession of the chemicals he dared not buy.
In the drizzling rain she walked away from her prison, penniless, and broken in body and in spirit. She passed the little Pharmacie de Siam, not daring to enter. She walked in the rain along the Rue des Pyramides, and across the Rue de Rivoli, and into the Tuileries Gardens. She had forgotten about her stone woman, but, unconsciously her steps were directed to her. She looked up at her statue with amazement, at first not recognizing it. It was no longer the statue of a smiling woman. The head was thrown back, the eyes closed. The last mortal agony was on the face. It was a ghastly monument to Death. The girl was so perplexed by the change in her statue that for the moment she forgot the ruin of her own life. She saw that the smiling face was but a mask, held in place by the curving of the left arm over it. Life, she realized now, was made up of tragedy and comedy, and he who sees but the smiling face, sees but the half of life. The girl hurried on to the bridge, sobbing quietly to herself, and looked down at the grey river water. The passers-by paid no attention to her. Why, she wondered, had she ever thought the river cold and cruel and merciless? It is the only home of the homeless, the only lover that does not change. She turned back to the top of the flight of steps which lead down, to the water's brink. She looked toward the Tuileries Gardens, but she could not see her statue for the trees which intervened. "I, too, will be a woman of stone," she said, as she swiftly descended the steps.
THE CHEMISTRY OF ANARCHY.
It has been said in the London papers that the dissolution of the Soho Anarchist League was caused by want of funds. This is very far from being the case. An Anarchist League has no need for funds and so long as there is money enough to buy beer the League is sure of continued existence. The truth about the scattering of the Soho organization was told me by a young newspaper-man who was chairman at the last meeting.
The young man was not an anarchist, though he had to pretend to be one in the interests of his paper, and so joined the Soho League, where he made some fiery speeches that were much applauded. At last Anarchist news became a drug in the market, and the editor of the paper young Marshall Simkins belonged to, told him that he would now have to turn his attention to Parliamentary work, as he would print no more Anarchist news in the sheet.
One might think that young Simkins would have been glad to get rid of his anarchist work, as he had no love for the cause. He was glad to get rid of it, but he found some difficulty in sending in his resignation. The moment he spoke of resigning, the members became suspicious of him. He had always been rather better dressed than the others, and, besides, he drank less beer. If a man wishes to be in good standing in the League he must not be fastidious as to dress, and he must be constructed to hold at least a gallon of beer at a sitting. Simkins was merely a "quart" man, and this would have told against him all along if it had not been for the extra gunpowder he put in his speeches. On several occasions seasoned Anarchists had gathered about him and begged him to give up his designs on the Parliament buildings.
The older heads claimed that, desirable as was the obliteration of the Houses of Parliament, the time was not yet ripe for it. England, they pointed out, was the only place where Anarchists could live and talk unmolested, so, while they were quite anxious that Simkins should go and blow up Vienna, Berlin, or Paris, they were not willing for him to begin on London. Simkins was usually calmed down with much difficulty, and finally, after hissing "Cowards!" two or three times under his breath, he concluded with, "Oh, very well, then, you know better than I do—I am only a young recruit; but allow me at least to blow up Waterloo Bridge, or spring a bomb in Fleet Street just to show that we are up and doing."
But this the Anarchists would not sanction. If he wanted to blow up bridges, he could try his hand on those across the Seine. They had given their word that there would be no explosions in London so long as England afforded them an asylum.
"But look at Trafalgar Square," cried Simkins angrily; "we are not allowed to meet there."
"Who wants to meet there?" said the chairman. "It is ever so much more comfortable in these rooms, and there is no beer in Trafalgar Square." "Yes, yes," put in several others; "the time is not yet ripe for it." Thus was Simkins calmed down, and beer allowed to flow again in tranquillity, while some foreign Anarchist, who was not allowed to set foot in his native country, would get up and harangue the crowd in broken English and tell them what great things would yet be done by dynamite.
But when Simkins sent in his resignation a change came over their feelings towards him, and he saw at once that he was a marked man. The chairman, in a whisper, advised him to withdraw his resignation. So Simkins, who was a shrewd young fellow, understanding the temper of the assembly, arose and said:—
"I have no desire to resign, but you do nothing except talk, and I want to belong to an Anarchist Society that acts." He stayed away from the next meeting, and tried to drop them in that way, but a committee from the League called upon him at his lodgings, and his landlady thought that young Simkins had got into bad ways when he had such evil-looking men visiting him.
Simkins was in a dilemma, and could not make up his mind what to do. The Anarchists apparently were not to be shaken off. He applied to his editor for advice on the situation, but that good man could think of no way out of the trouble.
"You ought to have known better," he said, "than to mix up with such people."
"But how was I to get the news?" asked Simkins, with some indignation. The editor shrugged his shoulders. That was not his part of the business; and if the Anarchists chose to make things uncomfortable for the young man, he could not help it.
Simkins' fellow-lodger, a student who was studying chemistry in London, noticed that the reporter was becoming gaunt with anxiety.
"Simkins," said Sedlitz to him one morning, "you are haggard and careworn: what is the matter with you? Are you in love, or is it merely debt that is bothering you?"
"Neither," replied Simkins.
"Then cheer up," said Sedlitz. "If one or the other is not interfering with you, anything else is easily remedied."
"I am not so sure of that," rejoined Simkins; and then he sat down and told his friend just what was troubling him.
"Ah," said Sedlitz, "that accounts for it. There has been an unkempt ruffian marching up and down watching this house. They are on your track, Simkins, my boy, and when they discover that you are a reporter, and therefore necessarily a traitor, you will be nabbed some dark night."
"Well, that's encouraging," said Simkins, with his head in his hands.
"Are these Anarchists brave men, and would they risk their lives in any undertaking?" asked Sedlitz.
"Oh, I don't know. They talk enough, but I don't know what they would do. They are quite capable, though, of tripping me up in a dark lane."
"Look here," said Sedlitz, "suppose you let me try a plan. Let me give them a lecture on the Chemistry of Anarchy. It's a fascinating subject."
"What good would that do?"
"Oh, wait till you have heard the lecture. If I don't make the hair of some of them stand on end, they are braver men than I take them to be. We have a large room in Clement's Inn, where we students meet to try experiments and smoke tobacco. It is half club, and half a lecture- room. Now, I propose to get those Anarchists in there, lock the doors, and tell them something about dynamite and other explosives. You give out that I am an Anarchist from America. Tell them that the doors will be locked to prevent police interference, and that there will be a barrel of beer. You can introduce me as a man from America, where they know as much about Anarchism in ten minutes as they do here in ten years. Tell them that I have spent my life in the study of explosives. I will have to make-up a little, but you know that I am a very good amateur actor, and I don't think there will be any trouble about that. At the last you must tell them that you have an appointment and will leave me to amuse them for a couple of hours."
"But I don't see what good it is all going to do, though I am desperate," said Simkins, "and willing to try anything. I have thought some of firing a bomb off myself at an Anarchist meeting."
When the Friday night of meeting arrived the large hall in Clement's Inn was filled to the doors. Those assembled there saw a platform at one end of the apartment, and a door that led from it to a room at the back of the hall. A table was on the platform, and boxes, chemical apparatus, and other scientific-looking paraphernalia were on it. At the hour of eight young Simkins appeared before the table alone.
"Fellow Anarchists," he said, "you are well aware that I am tired of the great amount of talk we indulge in, and the little action which follows it. I have been fortunate enough to secure the co-operation of an Anarchist from America, who will tell you something of the cause there. We have had the doors locked, and those who keep the keys are now down at the entrance of the Inn, so that if a fire should occur, they can quickly come and let us out. There is no great danger of fire, however, but the interruption of the police must be guarded against very carefully. The windows, as you see, are shuttered and barred, and no ray of light can penetrate from this room outside. Until the lecture is over no one can leave the room, and by the same token no one can enter it, which is more to the purpose.
"My friend, Professor Josiah P. Slivers, has devoted his life to the Chemistry of Anarchy, which is the title of this lecture. He will tell you of some important discoveries, which are now to be made known for the first time. I regret to say that the Professor is not in a very good state of health, because the line of life which he has adopted has its drawbacks. His left eye has been blown away by a premature explosion during his experiments. His right leg is also permanently disabled. His left arm, as you will notice, is in a sling, having been injured by a little disaster in his workshop since he came to London. He is a man, as you will see, devoted body and soul to the cause, so I hope you will listen to him attentively. I regret that I am unable to remain with you to-night, having other duties to perform which are imperative. I will therefore, if you will permit me, leave by the back entrance after I have introduced the Professor to you."
At this moment the stumping of a wooden leg was heard, and those in the audience saw appear a man on crutches, with one arm in a sling and a bandage over an eye, although he beamed upon them benevolently with the other.
"Fellow Anarchists," said Simkins, "allow me to introduce to you Professor Josiah P. Slivers, of the United States."
The Professor bowed and the audience applauded. As soon as the applause began the Professor held up his unmaimed arm and said, "Gentlemen, I beg that you will not applaud."
It seems the fashion in America to address a11 sorts and conditions of men as "Gentlemen."
The Professor continued, "I have here some explosives so sensitive that the slightest vibration will cause them to go off, and I therefore ask you to listen in silence to what I have to say. I must particularly ask you also not to stamp on the floor."
Before these remarks were concluded Simkins had slipped out by the back entrance, and somehow his desertion seemed to have a depressing effect upon the company, who looked upon the broken-up Professor with eyes of wonder and apprehension.
The Professor drew towards him one of the boxes and opened the lid. He dipped his one useful hand into the box and, holding it aloft, allowed something which looked like wet sawdust to drip through his fingers. "That, gentlemen," he said, with an air of the utmost contempt, "is what is known to the world as dynamite. I have nothing at all to say against dynamite. It has, in its day, been a very powerful medium through which our opinions have been imparted to a listening world, but its day is past. It is what the lumbering stage-coach is to the locomotive, what the letter is to the telegram, what the sailing-vessel is to the steamship. It will be my pleasant duty to-night to exhibit to you an explosive so powerful and deadly that hereafter, having seen what it can accomplish, you will have nothing but derision for such simple and harmless compounds as dynamite and nitro-glycerine."
The Professor looked with kindly sympathy over his audience as he allowed the yellow mixture to percolate slowly through his fingers back into the box again. Ever and anon he took up a fresh handful and repeated the action.
The Anarchists in the audience exchanged uneasy glances one with the other.
"Yet," continued the Professor, "it will be useful for us to consider this substance for a few moments, if but for the purpose of comparison. Here," he said, diving his hand into another box and bringing up before their gaze a yellow brick, "is dynamite in a compressed form. There is enough here to wreck all this part of London, were it exploded. This simple brick would lay St. Paul's Cathedral in ruins, so, however antiquated dynamite may become, we must always look upon it with respect, just as we look upon reformers of centuries ago who perished for their opinions, even though their opinions were far behind what ours are now. I shall take the liberty of performing some experiments with this block of dynamite." Saying which the Professor, with his free arm, flung the block of dynamite far down the aisle, where it fell on the floor with a sickening thud. The audience sprang from their seats and tumbled back one over the other. A wild shriek went up into the air, but the Professor gazed placidly on the troubled mob below him with a superior smile on his face. "I beg you to seat yourselves," he said, "and for reasons which I have already explained, I trust that you will not applaud any of my remarks. You have just now portrayed one of the popular superstitions about dynamite, and you show by your actions how necessary a lecture of this sort is in order that you may comprehend thoroughly the substance with which you have to deal. That brick is perfectly harmless, because it is frozen. Dynamite in its frozen state will not explode—a fact well understood by miners and all those who have to work with it, and who, as a rule, generally prefer to blow themselves to pieces trying to thaw the substance before a fire. Will you kindly bring that brick back to me, before it thaws out in the heated atmosphere of this room?"
One of the men stepped gingerly forward and picked up the brick, holding it far from his body, as he tip-toed up to the platform, where he laid it down carefully on the desk before the Professor.
"Thank you," said the Professor, blandly.
The man drew a long breath of relief as he went back to his seat.
"That is frozen dynamite," continued the Professor, "and is, as I have said, practically harmless. Now, it will be my pleasure to perform two startling experiments with the unfrozen substance," and with that he picked up a handful of the wet sawdust and flung it on a small iron anvil that stood on the table. "You will enjoy these experiments," he said, "because it will show you with what ease dynamite may be handled. It is a popular error that concussion will cause dynamite to explode. There is enough dynamite here to blow up this hall and to send into oblivion every person in it, yet you will see whether or not concussion will explode it." The Professor seized a hammer and struck the substance on the anvil two or three sharp blows, while those in front of him scrambled wildly back over their comrades, with hair standing on end. The Professor ceased his pounding and gazed reproachfully at them; then something on the anvil appeared to catch his eye. He bent over it and looked critically on the surface of the iron. Drawing himself up to his full height again, he said,
"I was about to reproach you for what might have appeared to any other man as evidence of fear, but I see my mistake. I came very near making a disastrous error. I have myself suffered from time to time from similar errors. I notice upon the anvil a small spot of grease; if my hammer had happened to strike that spot you would all now be writhing in your death-agonies under the ruins of this building. Nevertheless, the lesson is not without its value. That spot of grease is free nitro- glycerine that has oozed out from the dynamite. Therein rests, perhaps, the only danger in handling dynamite. As I have shown you, you can smash up dynamite on an anvil without danger, but if a hammer happened to strike a spot of free nitroglycerine it would explode in a moment. I beg to apologize to you for my momentary neglect."
A man rose up in the middle of the hall, and it was some little time before he could command voice enough to speak, for he was shaking as if from palsy. At last he said, after he had moistened his lips several times:—
"Professor, we are quite willing to take your word about the explosive. I think I speak for all my comrades here. We have no doubt at all about your learning, and would much prefer to hear from your own lips what you have to say on the subject, and not have you waste any more valuable time with experiments. I have not consulted with my comrades before speaking, but I think I voice the sense of the meeting." Cries of "You do, you do," came from all parts of the hall. The Professor once more beamed upon them benevolently.
"Your confidence in me is indeed touching," he said, "but a chemical lecture without experiments is like a body without a soul. Experiment is the soul of research. In chemistry we must take nothing for granted. I have shown you how many popular errors have arisen regarding the substance with which we are dealing. It would have been impossible for these errors to have arisen if every man had experimented for himself; and although I thank you for the mark of confidence you have bestowed upon me, I cannot bring myself to deprive you of the pleasure which my experiments will afford you. There is another very common error to the effect that fire will explode dynamite. Such, gentlemen, is not the case."
The Professor struck a match on his trousers-leg and lighted the substance on the anvil. It burnt with a pale bluish flame, and the Professor gazed around triumphantly at his fellow Anarchists.
While the shuddering audience watched with intense fascination the pale blue flame the Professor suddenly stooped over and blew it out. Straightening himself once more he said, "Again I must apologize to you, for again I have forgotten the small spot of grease. If the flame had reached the spot of nitro-glycerine it would have exploded, as you all know. When a man has his thoughts concentrated on one subject he is apt to forget something else. I shall make no more experiments with dynamite. Here, John," he said to the trembling attendant, "take this box away, and move it carefully, for I see that the nitro-glycerine is oozing out. Put it as tenderly down in the next room as if it were a box of eggs."
As the box disappeared there was a simultaneous long-drawn sigh of relief from the audience.
"Now, gentlemen," said the Professor, "we come to the subject that ought to occupy the minds of all thoughtful men." He smoothed his hair complacently with the palm of his practicable hand, and smiled genially around him.
"The substance that I am about to tell you of is my own invention, and compares with dynamite as prussic acid does with new milk as a beverage." The Professor dipped his fingers in his vest pocket and drew out what looked like a box of pills. Taking one pill out he placed it upon the anvil and as he tip-toed back he smiled on it with a smile of infinite tenderness. "Before I begin on this subject I want to warn you once more that if any man as much as stamps upon the floor, or moves about except on tip-toe this substance will explode and will lay London from here to Charing Cross in one mass of indistinguishable ruins. I have spent ten years of my life in completing this invention. And these pills, worth a million a box, will cure all ills to which the flesh is heir."
"John," he said, turning to his attendant, "bring me a basin of water!" The basin of water was placed gingerly upon the table, and the Professor emptied all the pills into it, picking up also the one that was on the anvil and putting it with the others.
"Now," he said, with a deep sigh, "we can breathe easier. A man can put one of these pills in a little vial of water, place the vial in his vest-pocket, go to Trafalgar Square, take the pill from the vial, throw it in the middle of the Square, and it will shatter everything within the four-mile radius, he himself having the glorious privilege of suffering instant martyrdom for the cause. People have told me that this is a drawback to my invention, but I am inclined to differ with them. The one who uses this must make up his mind to share the fate of those around him. I claim that this is the crowning glory of my invention. It puts to instant test our interest in the great cause. John, bring in very carefully that machine with the electric-wire attachment from the next room."
The machine was placed upon the table. "This," said the Professor, holding up some invisible object between his thumb and forefinger, "is the finest cambric needle. I will take upon the point of it an invisible portion of the substance I speak of." Here he carefully picked out a pill from the basin, and as carefully placed it upon the table, where he detached an infinitesimal atom of it and held it up on the point of the needle. "This particle," he said, "is so small that it cannot be seen except with the aid of a microscope. I will now place needle and all on the machine and touch it off with electric current;" and as his hand hovered over the push-button there were cries of "Stop! stop!" but the finger descended, and instantly there was a terrific explosion. The very foundation seemed shaken, and a dense cloud of smoke rolled over the heads of the audience. As the Professor became visible through the thinning smoke, he looked around for his audience. Every man was under the benches, and groans came from all parts of the hall. "I hope," said the Professor, in anxious tones, "that no one has been hurt. I am afraid that I took up too much of the substance on the point of the needle, but it will enable you to imagine the effect of a larger quantity. Pray seat yourselves again. This is my last experiment."
As the audience again seated itself, another mutual sigh ascended to the roof. The Professor drew the chairman's chair towards him and sat down, wiping his grimy brow.
A man instantly arose and said, "I move a vote of thanks to Professor Slivers for the interesting——"
The Professor raised his hand. "One moment," he said, "I have not quite finished. I have a proposal to make to you. You see that cloud of smoke hovering over our heads? In twenty minutes that smoke will percolate down through the atmosphere. I have told you but half of the benefits of this terrific explosive. When that smoke mixes with the atmosphere of the room it becomes a deadly poison. We all can live here for the next nineteen minutes in perfect safety, then at the first breath we draw we expire instantly. It is a lovely death. There is no pain, no contortion of the countenance, but we will be found here in the morning stark and stiff in our seats. I propose, gentlemen, that we teach London the great lesson it so much needs. No cause is without its martyrs. Let us be the martyrs of the great religion of Anarchy. I have left in my room papers telling just how and why we died. At midnight these sheets will be distributed to all the newspapers of London, and to-morrow the world will ring with our heroic names. I will now put the motion. All in favor of this signify it by the usual upraising of the right hand."
The Professor's own right hand was the only one that was raised.
"Now all of a contrary opinion," said the Professor, and at once every hand in the audience went up.
"The noes have it," said the Professor, but he did not seem to feel badly about it. "Gentlemen," he continued, "I see that you have guessed my second proposal, as I imagined you would, and though there will be no newspapers in London to-morrow to chronicle the fact, yet the newspapers of the rest of the world will tell of the destruction of this wicked city. I see by your looks that you are with me in this, my second proposal, which is the most striking thing ever planned, and is that we explode the whole of these pills in the basin. To make sure of this, I have sent to an agent in Manchester the full account of how it was done, and the resolutions brought forward at this meeting, and which doubtless you will accept.
"Gentlemen, all in favor of the instant destruction of London signify it in the usual manner."
"Mr. Professor," said the man who had spoken previously, "before you put that resolution I would like to move an amendment. This is a very serious proposal, and should not be lightly undertaken. I move as an amendment, therefore, that we adjourn this meeting to our rooms at Soho, and do the exploding there. I have some little business that must be settled before this grand project is put in motion."
The Professor then said, "Gentlemen, the amendment takes precedence. It is moved that this meeting be adjourned, so that you may consider the project at your club-rooms in Soho."
"I second that amendment," said fifteen of the audience rising together to their feet.
"In the absence of the regular chairman," said the Professor, "it is my duty to put the amendment. All in favor of the amendment signify it by raising the right hand."
Every hand was raised. "The amendment, gentlemen, is carried. I shall be only too pleased to meet you to-morrow night at your club, and I will bring with me a larger quantity of my explosive. John, kindly go round and tell the man to unlock the doors."
When Simkins and Slivers called round the next night at the regular meeting-place of the Anarchists, they found no signs of a gathering, and never since the lecture has the Soho Anarchist League been known to hold a meeting. The Club has mysteriously dissolved.
THE FEAR OF IT.
The sea was done with him. He had struggled manfully for his life, but exhaustion came at last, and, realizing the futility of further fighting, he gave up the battle. The tallest wave, the king of that roaring tumultuous procession racing from the wreck to the shore, took him in its relentless grasp, held him towering for a moment against the sky, whirled his heels in the air, dashed him senseless on the sand, and, finally, rolled him over and over, a helpless bundle, high up upon the sandy beach.
Human life seems of little account when we think of the trifles that make toward the extinction or the extension of it. If the wave that bore Stanford had been a little less tall, he would have been drawn back into the sea by one that followed. If, as a helpless bundle, he had been turned over one time more or one less, his mouth would have pressed into the sand, and he would have died. As it was, he lay on his back with arms outstretched on either side, and a handful of dissolving sand in one clinched fist. Succeeding waves sometimes touched him, but he lay there unmolested by the sea with his white face turned to the sky.
Oblivion has no calendar. A moment or an eternity are the same to it. When consciousness slowly returned, he neither knew nor cared how time had fled. He was not quite sure that he was alive, but weakness rather than fear kept him from opening his eyes to find out whether the world they would look upon was the world they had last gazed at. His interest, however, was speedily stimulated by the sound of the English tongue. He was still too much dazed to wonder at it, and to remember that he was cast away on some unknown island in the Southern Seas. But the purport of the words startled him.
"Let us be thankful. He is undoubtedly dead." This was said in a tone of infinite satisfaction.
There seemed to be a murmur of pleasure at the announcement from those who were with the speaker. Stanford slowly opened his eyes, wondering what these savages were who rejoiced in the death of an inoffensive stranger cast upon their shores. He saw a group standing around him, but his attention speedily became concentrated on one face. The owner of it, he judged, was not more than nineteen years of age, and the face—at least so it seemed to Stanford at the time—was the most beautiful he had ever beheld. There was an expression of sweet gladness upon it until her eyes met his, then the joy faded from the face, and a look of dismay took its place. The girl seemed to catch her breath in fear, and tears filled her eyes.
"Oh," she cried, "he is going to live."
She covered her face with her hands, and sobbed.
Stanford closed his eyes wearily. "I am evidently insane," he said to himself. Then, losing faith in the reality of things, he lost consciousness as well, and when his senses came to him again he found himself lying on a bed in a clean but scantily furnished room. Through an open window came the roar of the sea, and the thunderous boom of the falling waves brought to his mind the experiences through which he had passed. The wreck and the struggle with the waves he knew to be real, but the episode on the beach he now believed to have been but a vision resulting from his condition.
A door opened noiselessly, and, before he knew of anyone's entrance, a placid-faced nurse stood by his bed and asked him how he was.
"I don't know. I am at least alive."
The nurse sighed, and cast down her eyes. Her lips moved, but she said nothing. Stanford looked at her curiously. A fear crept over him that he was hopelessly crippled for life, and that death was considered preferable to a maimed existence. He felt wearied, though not in pain, but he knew that sometimes the more desperate the hurt, the less the victim feels it at first.
"Are—are any of my—my bones broken, do you know?" he asked.
"No. You are bruised, but not badly hurt. You will soon recover."
"Ah!" said Stanford, with a sigh of relief. "By the way," he added, with sudden interest, "who was that girl who stood near me as I lay on the beach?"
"There were several."
"No, there was but one. I mean the girl with the beautiful eyes and a halo of hair like a glorified golden crown on her head."
"We speak not of our women in words like those," said the nurse, severely; "you mean Ruth, perhaps, whose hair is plentiful and yellow."
Stanford smiled. "Words matter little," he said.
"We must be temperate in speech," replied the nurse.
"We may be temperate without, being teetotal. Plentiful and yellow, indeed! I have had a bad dream concerning those who found me. I thought that they—but it does not matter. She at least is not a myth. Do you happen to know if any others were saved?"
"I am thankful to be able to say that every one was drowned."
Stanford started up with horror in his eyes. The demure nurse, with sympathetic tones, bade him not excite himself. He sank back on his pillow.
"Leave the room," he cried, feebly, "Leave me—leave me." He turned his face toward the wall, while the woman left as silently as she had entered.
When she was gone Stanford slid from the bed, intending to make his way to the door and fasten it. He feared that these savages, who wished him dead, would take measures to kill him when they saw he was going to recover. As he leaned against the bed, he noticed that the door had no fastening. There was a rude latch, but neither lock nor bolt. The furniture of the room was of the most meagre description, clumsily made. He staggered to the open window, and looked out. The remnants of the disastrous gale blew in upon him and gave him new life, as it had formerly threatened him with death. He saw that he was in a village of small houses, each cottage standing in its own plot of ground. It was apparently a village of one street, and over the roofs of the houses opposite he saw in the distance the white waves of the sea. What astonished him most was a church with its tapering spire at the end of the street—a wooden church such as he had seen in remote American settlements. The street was deserted, and there were no signs of life in the houses.
"I must have fallen in upon some colony of lunatics," he said to himself. "I wonder to what country these people belong—either to England or the United States, I imagine—yet in all my travels I never heard of such a community."
There was no mirror in the room, and it was impossible for him to know how he looked. His clothes were dry and powdered with salt. He arranged them as well as he could, and slipped out of the house unnoticed. When he reached the outskirts of the village he saw that the inhabitants, both men and women, were working in the fields some distance away. Coming towards the village was a girl with a water-can in either hand. She was singing as blithely as a lark until she saw Stanford, whereupon she paused both in her walk and in her song. Stanford, never a backward man, advanced, and was about to greet her when she forestalled him by saying:
"I am grieved, indeed, to see that you have recovered."
The young man's speech was frozen on his lip, and a frown settled off his brow. Seeing that he was annoyed, though why she could not guess, Ruth hastened to amend matters by adding:
"Believe me, what I say is true. I am indeed sorry."
"Sorry that I live?"
"Most heartily am I."
"It is hard to credit such a statement from one so—from you."
"Do not say so. Miriam has already charged me with being glad that you were not drowned. It would pain me deeply if you also believed as she does."
The girl looked at him with swimming eyes, and the young man knew not what to answer. Finally he said:
"There is some horrible mistake. I cannot make it out. Perhaps our words, though apparently the same, have a different meaning. Sit down, Ruth, I want to ask you some questions."
Ruth cast a timorous glance towards the workers, and murmured something about not having much time to spare, but she placed the water-cans on the ground and sank down on the grass. Stanford throwing himself on the sward at her feet, but, seeing that she shrank back, he drew himself further from her, resting where he might gaze upon her face.
Ruth's eyes were downcast, which was necessary, for she occupied herself in pulling blade after blade of grass, sometimes weaving them together. Stanford had said he wished to question her, but he apparently forgot his intention, for he seemed wholly satisfied with merely looking at her. After the silence had lasted for some time, she lifted her eyes for one brief moment, and then asked the first question herself.
"From what land do you come?"
"Ah! that also is an island, is it not?"
He laughed at the "also," and remembered that he had some questions to ask.
"Yes, it is an island—also. The sea dashes wrecks on all four sides of it, but there is no village on its shores so heathenish that if a man is cast upon the beach the inhabitants do not rejoice because he has escaped death."
Ruth looked at him with amazement in her eyes.
"Is there, then, no religion in England?"
"Religion? England is the most religious country on the face of the earth. There are more cathedrals, more churches, more places of worship in England than in any other State that I know of. We send missionaries to all heathenish lands. The Government, itself, supports the Church."
"I imagine, then, I mistook your meaning. I thought from what you said that the people of England feared death, and did not welcome it or rejoice when one of their number died."
"They do not fear death, and they do not rejoice when it comes. Far from it. From the peer to the beggar, everyone fights death as long as he can; the oldest cling to life as eagerly as the youngest. Not a man but will spend his last gold piece to ward off the inevitable even for an hour."
"Gold piece—what is that?"
Stanford plunged his hand into his pocket.
"Ah!" he said, "there are some coins left. Here is a gold piece."
The girl took it, and looked at it with keen interest.
"Isn't it pretty?" she said, holding the yellow coin on her pink palm, and glancing up at him.
"That is the general opinion. To accumulate coins like that, men will lie, and cheat, and steal—yes, and work. Although they will give their last sovereign to prolong their lives, yet will they risk life itself to accumulate gold. Every business in England is formed merely for the gathering together of bits of metal like that in your hand; huge companies of men are formed so that it may be piled up in greater quantities. The man who has most gold has most power, and is generally the most respected; the company which makes most money is the one people are most anxious to belong to."
Ruth listened to him with wonder and dismay in her eyes. As he talked she shuddered, and allowed the yellow coin to slip from her hand to the ground. "No wonder such a people fears death."
"Do you not fear death?"
"How can we, when we believe in heaven?"
"But would you not be sorry if someone died whom you loved?"
"How could we be so selfish? Would you be sorry if your brother, or someone you loved, became possessed of whatever you value in England—a large quantity of this gold, for instance?"
"Certainly not. But then you see—well, it isn't exactly the same thing. If one you care for dies you are separated from him, and——"
"But only for a short time, and that gives but another reason for welcoming death. It seems impossible that Christian people should fear to enter Heaven. Now I begin to understand why our forefathers left England, and why our teachers will never tell us anything about the people there. I wonder why missionaries are not sent to England to teach them the truth, and try to civilize the people?"
"That would, indeed, be coals to Newcastle. But there comes one of the workers."
"It is my father," cried the girl, rising. "I fear I have been loitering. I never did such a thing before."
The man who approached was stern of countenance.
"Ruth," he said, "the workers are athirst."
The girl, without reply, picked up her pails and departed.
"I have been receiving," said the young man, coloring slightly, "some instruction regarding your belief. I had been puzzled by several remarks I had heard, and wished to make inquiries concerning them."
"It is more fitting," said the man, coldly, "that you should receive instruction from me or from some of the elders than from one of the youngest in the community. When you are so far recovered as to be able to listen to an exposition of our views, I hope to put forth such arguments as will convince you that they are the true views. If it should so happen that my arguments are not convincing, then I must request that you will hold no communication with our younger members. They must not be contaminated by the heresies of the outside world."
Stanford looked at Ruth standing beside the village well.
"Sir," he said, "you underrate the argumentative powers of the younger members. There is a text bearing upon the subject which I need not recall to you. I am already convinced."
THE METAMORPHOSES OF JOHNSON.
I was staying for some weeks at a lovely town in the Tyrol which I shall take the liberty of naming Schwindleburg. I conceal its real title because it charges what is termed a visitors' tax, and a heavy visitors' tax, exacting the same from me through the medium of my hotel bill. The town also made me pay for the excellent band that performs morning and afternoon in the Kurpark. Many continental health resorts support themselves by placing a tax upon visitors, a practice resorted to by no English town, and so I regard the imposition as a swindle, and I refuse to advertise any place that practises it. It is true that if you stay in Schwindleburg less than a week they do not tax you, but I didn't know that, and the hotel man, being wise in his own generation, did not present his bill until a day after the week was out, so I found myself in for the visitors' tax and the music money before I was aware of it. Thus does a foolish person accumulate wisdom by foreign travel. I stayed on at this picturesque place, listening to the band every day, trying to get value for my money. I intended to keep much to myself, having work to do, and make no acquaintances, but I fell under the fascination of Johnson, thus breaking my rule. What is the use of making a rule if you can't have the pleasure of breaking it?
I think the thing that first attracted me to Johnson was his utter negligence in the matter of his personal appearance. When he stepped down from the hotel 'bus he looked like a semi-respectable tramp. He wore a blue woolen shirt, with no collar or necktie. He had a slouch hat, without the usual affectation of a Tyrolese feather in it. His full beard had evidently not been trimmed for weeks, and he had one trouser-leg turned up. He had no alpenstock, and that also was a merit. So I said to myself, "Here is a man free from the conventionalities of society. If I become acquainted with anybody it will be with him."
I found Johnson was an American from a Western city named Chicago, which I had heard of, and we "palled on." He was very fond of music, and the band in the Kurpark was a good one, so we went there together twice a day, and talked as we walked up and down the gravel paths. He had been everywhere, and knew his way about; his conversation was interesting. In about a week I had come to love Johnson, and I think he rather liked me.
One day, as we returned together to the Hotel Post, he held out his hand.
"I'm off to-morrow," he said; "off to Innsbruck. So I shall bid you good-bye. I am very glad indeed to have met you."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." I replied. "But I won't say good-bye now, I'll see you to the station to-morrow."
"No, don't do that. I shall be away before you are up. We'll say good- bye here."
We did, and when I had breakfast next morning I found Johnson had left by the early train. I wandered around the park that forenoon mourning for Johnson. The place seemed lonely without him. In the afternoon I explored some of the by-paths of the park within hearing distance of the band, when suddenly, to my intense surprise, I met my departed friend.
"Hello! Johnson," I cried, "I thought you left this morning."
The man looked at me with no recognition in his face.
"I beg your pardon," he said, "my name is Baumgarten."
Looking more closely at him I at once saw I was mistaken. I had been thinking of Johnson at the time, which probably accounted for the error. Still, his likeness to Johnson was remarkable—to Johnson well groomed. He had neatly-trimmed side-whiskers and moustache, while Johnson had a full beard. His round hat was new, and he wore an irreproachable collar, and even cuffs. Besides this he sported a cane, and evidently possessed many weaknesses to which Johnson was superior. I apologized for my mistake, and was about to walk on when Baumgarten showed signs of wishing to become acquainted.
"I have just arrived," he said, "and know nothing of the place. Have you been here long?"
"About two weeks," I answered.
"Ah! then, you are a resident as it were. Are there any good ascents to be made around here?"
"I have not been informed that there are. I am not a climber myself, except by funicular railway. I am always content to take other people's figures for the heights. The only use I have for a mountain is to look at it."
Then Baumgarten launched into a very interesting account of mountain dangers he had passed through. I found him a most entertaining talker, almost as fascinating as Johnson himself. He told me he was from Hanover, but he had been educated in Great Britain, which accounted for his perfect English.
"What hotel are you at?" he asked, as the band ceased playing.
"I am staying at the Post," I answered. "And you?"
"I am at the Adler. You must come to dine with me some evening, and I will make it even by dining with you. We can thus compare table d'hotes."
Baumgarten improved on acquaintance in spite of his foppishness in dress. I almost forgot Johnson until one day I was reminded of him one day by Baumgarten saying, "I leave to-night for Innsbruck."
"Innsbruck? Why, that's where Johnson is. You ought to meet him. He's an awfully good fellow. A little careless about his clothes, that's all."
"I should like to meet him. I know no one in Innsbruck. Do you happen to know the name of his hotel?"
"I do not. I don't even know Johnson's first name. But I'll write you a note of introduction on my card, and if you should come across him, give him my regards."
Baumgarten accepted the card with thanks, and we parted.
Next day, being warm, I sat on a bench in the shade listening to the music. Now that Baumgarten had gone, I was meditating on his strange resemblance to Johnson, and remembering things. Someone sat down beside me, but I paid no attention to him. Finally he said: "This seems to be a very good band."
I started at the sound of his voice, and looked at him too much astonished to reply.
He wore a moustache, but no whiskers, and a green Tyrolese felt hat with a feather in it. An alpenstock leaned against the bench beside him, its iron point in the gravel. He wore knickerbockers; in fact, his whole appearance was that of the conventional mountaineer-tourist. But the voice! And the expression of the eyes!
"What did you say?"
"I said the band is very good."
"Oh, yes. Quite so. It's expensive, and it ought to be good. I'm helping to pay for it. By the way, you arrived this morning, I take it?"
"I came last night."
"Oh, indeed. And you depart in a few days for Innsbruck?"
"No, I go to Salzburg when I leave here."
"And your name isn't Johnson—or—or Baumgarten, by any chance?"
"It is not."
"You come neither from Chicago nor Hanover?"
"I have never been in America, nor do I know Hanover. Anything else?"
"Nothing else. It's all right. It's none of my business, of course."
"What is none of your business?"
"Who are you."
"Oh, there's no secret about that. I am a Russian. My name is Katzoff. At least, these are the first and last syllables of my name. I never use my full name when I travel; it is too complicated."
"Thanks. And how do you account for your perfect English? Educated in England, I presume? Baumgarten was."
"No, I was not. You know we Russians are reputed to be good linguists."
"Yes, I had forgotten that. We will now return to the point from which we started. The band is excellent, and it is about to play one of four favorite selections, Mr. Katzburg."
"Katzoff is the name. As to the selection, I don't know much about music, although I am fond of popular pieces."
Katzoff and I got along very nicely, although I did not seem to like him as well as either Johnson or Baumgarten. He left for Salzburg without bidding me good-bye. Missing him one day, I called at the Angleterre, and the porter told me he had gone.
Next day I searched for him, wondering in what garb I should find him. I passed him twice as he sat on the bench, before I was sure enough to accost him. The sacrifice of his moustache had made a remarkable difference. His clean-shaven face caused him to look at least ten years younger. He wore a tall silk hat, and a long black morning coat. I found myself hardly able to withdraw my eyes from the white spats that partially covered his polished boots. He was reading an English paper, and did not observe my scrutiny. I approached him.
"Well, Johnson," I said, "this is a lay out. You're English this time, I suppose?"
The man looked up in evident surprise. Fumbling around the front of his waistcoat for a moment, he found a black silk string, which he pulled, bringing to his hand a little round disc of glass. This he stuck in one eye, grimacing slightly to keep it in place, and so regarded me apparently with some curiosity. My certainty that it was Johnson wavered for a moment, but I braved it out.
"That monocle is a triumph, Johnson. In combination with the spats it absolutely staggers me. If you had tried that on as Baumgarten I don't know that I should have recognized you. Johnson, what's your game?"
"You seem to be laboring under some delusion," he said at last. "My name is not Johnson. I am Lord Somerset Campbell, if you care to know."
"Really? Oh, well, that's all right. I'm the Duke of Argyll, so we must be relatives. Blood is thicker than water, Campbell. Confess. Whom have you murdered?"
"I knew," said his lordship, slowly, "that the largest lunatic asylum in the Tyrol is near here, but I was not aware that the patients were allowed to stroll in the Kurpark."
"That's all very well, Johnson, but——"
"Campbell, if you please."
"I don't please, as it happens. This masquerade has gone on long enough. What's your crime? Or are you on the other side of the fence? Are you practising the detective business?"
"My dear fellow, I don't know you, and I resent your impertinent curiosity. Allow me to wish you good-day."
"It won't do, Johnson, it has gone too far. You have played on my feelings, and I won't stand it. I'll go to the authorities and relate the circumstances. They are just suspicious enough to——"
"Which? The authorities or the circumstances?" asked Johnson, sitting down again.
"Both, my dear boy, both, and you know it. Now, Johnson, make a clean breast of it, I won't give you away."
Johnson sighed, and his glass dropped from his eye. He looked around cautiously. "Sit down," he said.
"Then you are Johnson!" I cried, with some exultation.
"I thought you weren't very sure," began Johnson. "However, it doesn't matter, but you should be above threatening a man. That was playing it low down."
"I see you're from Chicago. Go on."
"It's all on account of this accursed visitors' tax. That I decline to pay. I stay just under the week at a hotel, and then take a 'bus to the station, and another 'bus to another hotel. Of course my mistake was getting acquainted with you. I never suspected you were going to stay here a month."
"But why didn't you let me know? Your misdemeanor is one I thoroughly sympathize with. I wouldn't have said anything."
Johnson shook his head.
"I took a fellow into my confidence once before. He told it as a dead secret to a friend, and the friend thought it a good joke, and related it, always under oath that it should go no further. The authorities had me arrested before the week was out, and fined me heavily besides exacting the tax."
"But doesn't the 'bus fares, the changing, and all that amount to as much as the tax?"
"I suppose it does. It isn't the money I object to, it's the principle of the thing."
This interview was the last I ever had with Johnson. About a week later I read in the Visitors' List that Lord Somerset Campbell, who had been a guest of the Victoria (the swell hotel of the place), had left Schwindleburg for Innsbruck.
THE RECLAMATION OF JOE HOLLENDS.
The public-houses of Burwell Road—and there were many of them for the length of the street—were rather proud of Joe Hollends. He was a perfected specimen of the work a pub produces. He was probably the most persistent drunkard the Road possessed, and the periodical gathering in of Joe by the police was one of the stock sights of the street. Many of the inhabitants could be taken to the station by one policeman; some required two; but Joe's average was four. He had been heard to boast that on one occasion he had been accompanied to the station by seven bobbies, but that was before the force had studied Joe and got him down to his correct mathematical equivalent. Now they tripped him up, a policeman taking one kicking leg and another the other, while the remaining two attended to the upper part of his body. Thus they carried him, followed by an admiring crowd, and watched by other envious drunkards who had to content themselves with a single officer when they went on a similar spree. Sometimes Joe managed to place a kick where it would do the most good against the stomach of a policeman, and when the officer rolled over there was for a few moments a renewal of the fight, silent on the part of the men and vociferous on the part of the drunkard, who had a fine flow of abusive language. Then the procession went on again. It was perfectly useless to put Joe on the police ambulance, for it required two men to sit on him while in transit, and the barrow is not made to stand such a load.
Of course, when Joe staggered out of the pub and fell in the gutter, the ambulance did its duty, and trundled Joe to his abiding place, but the real fun occurred when Joe was gathered in during the third stage of his debauch. He passed through the oratorical stage, then the maudlin or sentimental stage, from which he emerged into the fighting stage, when he was usually ejected into the street, where he forthwith began to make Rome howl, and paint the town red. At this point the policeman's whistle sounded, and the force knew Joe was on the warpath, and that duty called them to the fray.
It was believed in the neighborhood that Joe had been a college man, and this gave him additional standing with his admirers. His eloquence was undoubted, after several glasses varying in number according to the strength of their contents, and a man who had heard the great political speakers of the day admitted that none of them could hold a candle to Joe when he got on the subject of the wrongs of the working man and the tyranny of the capitalist. It was generally understood that Joe might have been anything he liked, and that he was no man's enemy but his own. It was also hinted that he could tell the bigwigs a thing or two if he had been consulted in affairs of State.
One evening, when Joe was slowly progressing as usual, with his feet in the air, towards the station, supported by the requisite number of policemen, and declaiming to the delight of the accompanying crowd, a woman stood with her back to the brick wall, horror-stricken at the sight. She had a pale, refined face, and was dressed in black. Her self-imposed mission was among these people, but she had never seen Joe taken to the station before, and the sight, which was so amusing to the neighborhood, was shocking to her. She enquired about Joe, and heard the usual story that he was no man's enemy but his own, although they might in justice have added the police. Still, a policeman was hardly looked upon as a human being in that neighborhood. Miss Johnson reported the case to the committee of the Social League, and took counsel. Then it was that the reclamation of Joe Hollends was determined on.
Joe received Miss Johnson with subdued dignity, and a demeanor that delicately indicated a knowledge on his part of her superiority and his own degradation. He knew how a lady should be treated even if he was a drunkard, as he told his cronies afterwards. Joe was perfectly willing to be reclaimed. Heretofore in his life, no one had ever extended the hand of fellowship to him. Human sympathy was what Joe needed, and precious little he had had of it. There were more kicks than halfpence in this world for a poor man. The rich did not care what became of the poor; not they—a proposition which Miss Johnson earnestly denied.
It was one of the tenets of the committee that where possible the poor should help the poor. It was resolved to get Joe a decent suit of clothes and endeavor to find him a place where work would enable him to help himself. Miss Johnson went around the neighborhood and collected pence for the reclamation. Most people were willing to help Joe, although it was generally felt that the Road would be less gay when he took on sober habits. In one room, however, Miss Johnson was refused the penny she pleaded for.
"We cannot spare even a penny," said the woman, whose sickly little boy clung to her skirts. "My husband is just out of work again. He has had only four weeks' work this time."
Miss Johnson looked around the room and saw why there was no money. It was quite evident where the earnings of the husband had gone.
The room was much better furnished than the average apartment of the neighborhood. There were two sets of dishes where one would have been quite sufficient. On the mantelshelf and around the walls were various unnecessary articles which cost money.
Miss Johnson noted all this but said nothing, although she resolved to report it to the committee. In union is strength and in multitude of counsel there is wisdom. Miss Johnson had great faith in the wisdom of the committee.
"How long has your husband been out of work?" she asked.
"Only a few days, but times are very bad and he is afraid he will not get another situation soon."
"What is his trade?"
"He is a carpenter and a good workman—sober and steady."
"If you give me his name I will put it down in our books. Perhaps we may be able to help him."
"John Morris is his name."
Miss Johnson wrote it down on her tablets, and when she left, the wife felt vaguely grateful for benefits to come.
The facts of the case were reported to the committee, and Miss Johnson was deputed to expostulate with Mrs. Morris upon her extravagance. John Morris's name was put upon the books among the names of many other unemployed persons. The case of Joe Hollends then came up, and elicited much enthusiasm. A decent suit of clothing had been purchased with part of the money collected for him, and it was determined to keep the rest in trust, to be doled out to him as occasion warranted.
Two persuasive ladies undertook to find a place for him in one of the factories, if such a thing were possible.
Joe felt rather uncomfortable in his new suit of clothes, and seemed to regard the expenditure as, all in all, a waste of good money. He was also disappointed to find that the funds collected were not to be handed over to him in a lump. It was not the money he cared about, he said, but the evident lack of trust. If people had trusted him more, he might have been a better man. Trust and human sympathy were what Joe Hollends needed.
The two persuasive ladies appealed to Mr. Stillwell, the proprietor of a small factory for the making of boxes. They said that if Hollends got a chance they were sure he would reform. Stillwell replied that he had no place for anyone. He had enough to do to keep the men already in his employ. Times were dull in the box business, and he was turning away applicants every day who were good workmen and who didn't need to be reformed. However, the ladies were very persuasive, and it is not given to every man to be able to refuse the appeal of a pretty woman, not to mention two of them. Stillwell promised to give Hollends a chance, said he would consult with his foreman, and let the ladies know what could be done.
Joe Hollends did not receive the news of his luck with the enthusiasm that might have been expected. Many a man was tramping London in search of employment and finding none, therefore even the ladies who were so solicitous about Joe's welfare thought he should be thankful that work came unsought. He said he would do his best, which is, when you come to think of it, all that we have a right to expect from any man.
Some days afterwards Jack Morris applied to Mr. Stillwell for a job, but he had no sub-committee of persuasive ladies to plead for him. He would be willing to work half-time or quarter-time for that matter. He had a wife and boy dependent on him. He could show that he was a good workman and he did not drink. Thus did Morris recite his qualifications to the unwilling ears of Stillwell the box maker. As he left the place disheartened with another refusal, he was overtaken by Joe Hollends. Joe was a lover of his fellow-man, and disliked seeing anyone downhearted. He had one infallible cure for dejection. Having just been discharged, he was in high spirits, because his prediction of his own failure as a reformed character, if work were a condition of the reclamation, had just been fulfilled.
"Cheer up, old man," he cried, slapping Morris on the shoulder, "what's the matter? Come and have a drink with me. I've got the money."
"No," said Morris, who knew the professional drunkard but slightly, and did not care for further acquaintance with him, "I want work, not beer."
"Every man to his taste. Why don't you ask at the box factory? You can have my job and welcome. The foreman's just discharged me. Said I wouldn't work myself, and kept the men off theirs. Thought I talked too much about capital and labor."
"Do you think I could get your job?"
"Very likely. No harm in trying. If they don't take you on, come into the Red Lion—I'll be there—and have a drop. It'll cheer you up a bit."
Morris appealed in vain to the foreman. They had more men now in the factory than they needed, he said. So Morris went to the Red Lion, where he found Hollends ready to welcome him. They had several glasses together, and Hollends told him of the efforts of the Social League in the reclamation line, and his doubts of their ultimate success. Hollends seemed to think the ladies of the League were deeply indebted to him for furnishing them with such a good subject for reformation. That night Joe's career reached a triumphant climax, for the four policeman had to appeal to the bystanders for help in the name of the law.
Jack Morris went home unaided. He had not taken many glasses, but he knew he should have avoided drink altogether, for he had some experience of its power in his younger days. He was, therefore, in a quarrelsome mood, ready to blame everyone but himself.
He found his wife in tears, and saw Miss Johnson sitting there, evidently very miserable.
"What's all this?" asked Morris.
His wife dried her eyes, and said it was nothing. Miss Johnson had been giving her some advice, which she was thankful for. Morris glared at the visitor.
"What have you got to do with us?" he demanded rudely. His wife caught him by the arm, but he angrily tossed aside her hand. Miss Johnson arose, fearing.
"You've no business here. We want none of your advice. You get out of this." Then, impatiently to his wife, who strove to calm him, "Shut up, will you?"
Miss Johnson was afraid he would strike her as she passed him going to the door, but he merely stood there, following her exit with lowering brow.
The terrified lady told her experience to the sympathizing members of the committee. She had spoken to Mrs. Morris of her extravagance in buying so many things that were not necessary when her husband had work. She advised the saving of the money. Mrs. Morris had defended her apparent lavish expenditure by saying that there was no possibility of saving money. She bought useful things, and when her husband was out of work she could always get a large percentage of their cost from the pawnbroker. The pawnshop, she had tearfully explained to Miss Johnson, was the only bank of the poor. The idea of the pawnshop as a bank, and not as a place of disgrace, was new to Miss Johnson, but before anything further could be said the husband had come in. One of the committee, who knew more about the district than Miss Johnson, affirmed that there was something to say for the pawnbroker as the banker of the poor. The committee were unanimous in condemning the conduct of Morris, and it says much for the members that, in spite of the provocation one of them had received, they did not take the name of so undeserving a man from their list of the unemployed.
The sad relapse of Joe Hollends next occupied the attention of the League. His fine had been paid, and he had expressed himself as deeply grieved at his own frailty. If the foreman had been less harsh with him and had given him a chance, things might have been different. It was resolved to send Joe to the seaside so that he might have an opportunity of toning up his system to resist temptation. Joe enjoyed his trip to the sea. He always liked to encounter a new body of police unaccustomed to his methods. He toned up his system so successfully the first day on the sands that he spent the night in the cells.
Little by little, the portable property in the rooms of the Morrises disappeared into the pawnshop. Misfortune, as usual, did not come singly. The small boy was ill, and Morris himself seemed to be unable to resist the temptation of the Red Lion. The unhappy woman took her boy to the parish doctor, who was very busy, but he gave what attention he could to the case. He said all the boy needed was nourishing food and country air. Mrs. Morris sighed, and decided to take the little boy oftener to the park, but the way was long, and he grew weaker day by day.
At last, she succeeded in interesting her husband in the little fellow's condition. He consented to take the boy to the doctor with her.
"The doctor doesn't seem to mind what I say," she complained. "Perhaps he will pay attention to a man."
Morris was not naturally a morose person, but continued disappointment was rapidly making him so. He said nothing, but took the boy in his arms, and, followed by his wife, went to the doctor.
"This boy was here before," said the physician, which tended to show that he had paid more attention to the case than Mrs. Morris thought. "He is very much worse. You will have to take him to the country or he will die."
"How can I send him to the country?" asked Morris, sullenly. "I've been out of work for months."
"Have you friends in the country?"
"Hasn't your wife any friends in the country who would take her and the lad for a month or so?"
"Have you anything to pawn?"
"Then I would advise you to pawn everything you own, or sell it if you can, and take the boy on your back and tramp to the country. You will get work there probably more easily than in the city. Here are ten shillings to help you."
"I don't want your money," said Morris, in a surly tone. "I want work."
"I have no work to give you, so I offer you what I have. I haven't as much of that as I could wish. You are a fool not to take what the gods send."
Morris, without replying, gathered up his son in his arms and departed.
"Here is a bottle of tonic for him." said the doctor to Mrs. Morris.
He placed the half-sovereign on the bottle as he passed it to her. She silently thanked him with her wet eyes, hoping that a time would come when she could repay the money. The doctor had experience enough to know that they were not to be classed among his usual visitors. He was not in the habit of indiscriminately bestowing gold coins.
It was a dreary journey, and they were a long time shaking off the octopus-like tentacles of the great city, that reached further and further into he country each year, as if it lived on consuming the green fields. Morris walked ahead with the boy on his back, and his wife followed. Neither spoke, and the sick lad did not complain. As they were nearing a village, the boy's head sunk on his father's shoulder. The mother quickened her pace, and came up to them stroking the head of her sleeping son. Suddenly, she uttered a smothered cry and took the boy in her arms.
"What's the matter?" asked Morris, turning round.
She did not answer, but sat by the roadside with the boy on her lap, swaying her body to and fro over him, moaning as she did so. Morris needed no answer. He stood on the road with hardening face, and looked down on his wife and child without speaking.
The kindly villagers arranged the little funeral, and when it was over Jack Morris and his wife stood again on the road.
"Jack, dear," she pleaded, "don't go back to that horrible place. We belong to the country, and the city is so hard and cruel."
"I'm going back. You can do as you like." Then, relenting a little, he added, "I haven't brought much luck to you, my girl."
She knew her husband was a stubborn man, and set in his way, so, unprotesting, she followed him in, as she had followed out, stumbling many times, for often her eyes did not see the road. And so they returned to their empty rooms.